Episode 17 of The Pitch Side Experts Podcast, featuring CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde.
In the latest episode of The Pitch Side Experts Podcast, presented by former West Indies fast bowler, turned commentator Ian Bishop, former Australia all rounder, turned coach Tom Moody and CricViz Analyst Freddie Wilde, the trio discuss one of cricket’s buzzwords: match-ups. What are they and how do they work? You can listen to the full episode of the podcast below on Spotify. The Pitch Side Experts is available on all the primary podcast platforms, including iTunes and Google Podcasts.
CricViz data is used throughout the episode. Some of the key statistics and bits of analysis are outlined below.
Freddie starts by explaining that match-ups are broadly defined as a batsman v bowler or bowler v batsman head-to-head that is favourable for one team or the other. Match-ups have been around in cricket forever and Freddie cites the famous example of Harold Larwood to Don Bradman in the 1932 Bodyline Ashes series. This table below shows how Larwood had the edge of Bradman in that series.
Match-ups have become more prominent in white ball formats because the margins between victory and defeat are finer, so getting every tactical decision right is more important. Freddie uses the example of Chris Gayle in T20 cricket to illustrate how a batsman’s record against different bowler-types can vary massively.
The most common match-up revolves around getting the ball to spin away from the bat. This table shows how balls spinning away are harder to score off and produce fractionally lower averages.
Freddie references a Tweet from Shankar Rajgopal—analyst for Kings XI Punjab and St Lucia Zouks—where he theorises that match-ups form part of a natural cycle of T20 cricket.
Natural evolution in T20 cricket:
Finger spinners -> Wrist Spinners (bowlers who spin it both ways) -> Left Handers (mostly middle order to counter wrist spin) -> Off Spinners (to counter the left handers)
And the cycle and evolution continues..
— Lamb Shanks (@shankrajgopal) August 25, 2020
The data does suggest that the last decade has seen a significant rise in the proportion of spin overs bowled by wrist spinners.
Rajgopal’s theory suggests that now we will see a rise in the percentage of balls faced by left-handers to counter this evolution. While this is not yet apparent on a global level it is visible in some leagues. For example, the CPL – where Rajgopal was working when he sent that Tweet – the last few seasons has seen. a steady rise in the proportion of balls from spinners faced by left-handers.
Freddie Wilde is a CricViz Analyst, @fwildecricket.